[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 62 (Thursday, April 1, 1999)]
[Notices]
[Pages 15718-15723]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-8010]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Significant Amendment of the Land and Resource Management Plan of 
the Ouachita National Forest for Managing Approximately 111,580 Acres 
of Acquired Lands in McCurtain County, OK

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: Pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 1604(f)(4), the Forest Service will 
prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the decision to 
amend the Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) for the 
Ouachita National Forest. Comments should focus specifically on the 
preliminary proposal described below and on possible alternatives.
    The current Forest Plan, which provides programmatic guidance for 
management of the Ouachita National Forest, was implemented in 1986 and 
subsequently has been amended 30 times (including a significant 
amendment in 1990 that resulted in the publication of a new Forest 
Plan.) As many as six primary decisions may be made in the amendment 
described in this notice: (a) Modification of forest-wide goals, 
objectives, standards, and/or guidelines (if needed); (b) allocation of 
lands and waters to management areas; (c) identification of lands 
suitable for timber production; (d) re-determination of forest-wide 
allowable sale quantity (ASQ) (if needed); (e) identification of lands 
suitable and potentially available for cattle grazing; and (f) 
determination of the eligibility and suitability of the Glover and 
Mountain Fork Rivers for possible Congressional designation under the 
National Wild and Scenic River System (NWSRS).
    Significant amendments to Forest Plans follow the same procedures 
required for the development and approval of forest plans (36 CFR part 
219.10(f)), including completion of an EIS. The Forest Service 
determined that the amendment discussed in this notice will be 
significant because (a) it will establish goals, objectives, management 
areas, standards, and guidelines for a block of approximately 111,580 
acres of acquired lands newly added to the National Forest System (the 
``Broken Bow unit'') and (b) as a result of allocating these lands to 
management areas, this amendment may change the overall desired future 
condition of the Ouachita National Forest. An EIS is also needed 
because the analysis conducted during the amendment process may result 
in a recommendation to Congress concerning possible additions to the 
NWSRS.
    As part of the overall effort to ensure that treaty rights are 
honored and responsibilities to American Indian Tribes are met, the 
Forest Service will consult and exchange information routinely with 
affected and interested Tribes on a government-to-government basis 
throughout this amendment process. The Forest Service will also work 
closely with local governments, State and Federal agencies, and elected 
officials.
    The environmental analysis and decision-making process will include 
the following opportunities for public participation and comment:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Estimated date                 Step           Public involvement
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Late March 1999.............  Publish formal        30-day formal
                               Notice of Intent      comment period;
                               (with preliminary     Newsletter; press
                               proposal).            releases, Web site.
Mid-May 1999................  Summarize issues in   Workshop Newsletter,
                               response to the       Web page update.
                               proposal and
                               amendment.
By mid-June 1999............  Develop alternatives  Mailing, Web page
                                                     update; Workshop
                                                     and informal
                                                     meetings, if
                                                     needed.
July 1999...................  Issue draft EIS.....  Invite public
                                                     comment; 90-day
                                                     formal review;
                                                     Workshop and
                                                     informal meetings;
                                                     Newsletter, press
                                                     releases, Web site
                                                     update.
December 1999...............  Issue amendment and   Newsletter, press
                               EIS.                  releases, Web site
                                                     update.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Forest Service will meet with interested groups, organizations, 
and individuals to discuss the proposed amendment. The agency will also 
host at least one workshop in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, to present 
and clarify the preliminary proposal, describe ways the public can 
participate in the process, and accept comments from the public on the 
proposal for amending the Forest Plan. The Forest Service will also 
consider comments received at any time during the amendment process.
    Following the publication of this Notice of Intent (NOI), a draft 
EIS will be prepared and published. The draft EIS will include a 
preferred alternative with specific language to amendment the Forest 
Plan. This preferred alternative will be developed based on issues that 
are raised in response to the preliminary proposal presented in this 
NOI. The Forest Service will then again actively seek information, 
comments, and assistance from Federal, State and local agencies and 
from individuals and organizations that may be interested in or 
affected by the preferred alternative in the draft EIS. It is very 
important that

[[Page 15719]]

those interested in this proposal participate at that time.

DATES: Comments responding to this Notice of Intent (NOI) should be 
received in writing (electronic mail acceptable) by April 30, 1999. The 
draft EIS should be available for public review in July 1999. The 
comment period for the draft EIS will commence on the day the 
Environmental Protection Agency publishes the Notice of Availability in 
the Federal Register. After a comment period of 90 days, the Final EIS 
and Forest Plan Amendment should be completed by December 1999.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments concerning this Notice to: Plan 
Amendment, Ouachita National Forest, P.O. Box 1270, Hot Springs, AR 
71902, for send electronic mail to: <mcit/[email protected]>
    All comments received about the Forest Plan amendment, including 
the names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part 
of the public record concerning this proposed action and will be 
available for public inspection. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered; however, those who submit anonymous comments 
will not have standing to appeal the subsequent decision under 36 CFR 
part 217.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Cleeves, Forest Planner, Ouachita 
National Forest, (501) 321-5251; or Bill Pell, Acting Team Leader for 
Planning and Recreation, (501) 321-5320; TDD (501) 321-5307.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need To Amend the Forest Plan (Why Is the Forest 
Service Proposing To Amend the Ouachita National Forest Plan?

    In November 1996, approximately 111,300 acres were added to the 
Ouachita National Forest in the north-central portion of McCurtain 
County, Oklahoma, as a result of a major land exchange. Approximately 
28,093 acres of land in the southeastern corner of the county were 
subtracted from the National Forest System at the same time. As part of 
this land exchange, the Forest Service also acquired lands in Le Flore 
County, Oklahoma and several Arkansas counties and disposed of 
additional National Forest System lands in Arkansas. Lands added to the 
Ouachita National Forest in these counties were addressed in Amendment 
30 to the Forest Plan. The amendment described in this NOI deals only 
with lands acquired in McCurtain County. (In addition to lands acquired 
through the exchange, the Ouachita National Forest purchased 
approximately 280 acres that are now included in the Broken Bow unit.)
    The Federal legislation that authorized the land exchange (Omnibus 
Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996) specified that the 
Forest Service would manage these acquired lands and waters (here and 
in other counties) under the forestwide standards and guidelines in the 
existing Forest Plan until the acquired lands were incorporated in the 
Plan through a formal amendment process. The legislation further 
stipulated that the Forest Service would initiate the process to 
incorporate these lands and waters in the Forest Plan within 12 months 
after the exchange was completed. (An interdisciplinary team was formed 
and work began within the prescribed 12-month period.) The purpose of 
this amendment, then, is to establish the goals, objectives, management 
areas, standards, and guidelines under which the acquired lands in 
question will be managed.

Topics To Be Addressed (What Topics Will Be Addressed in the Forest 
Plan Amendment and How Were They Determined?)

    Forest Plans provide programmatic frameworks for decision-making on 
each National Forest. Each Plan sets forth goals, objectives, advisable 
courses of action, and limitations to actions. These advisable courses 
and limitations to actions are called standards and guidelines. Some 
standards and guidelines apply forestwide. Others apply only to 
specific subdivisions of the National Forest called Management Areas. 
The National Forest Management Act and associated agency regulations 
(36 CFR part 219.10(f)) provide direction for amendment Forest Plans.
    To set the stage for this amendment, the Forest Service developed a 
preliminary list of topics likely to be relevant to the decision-making 
process. This list was based on a review of legal requirements; current 
conditions in the Broken Bow unit, including social, cultural, 
economic, and environmental factors; and public interest. The 
interdisciplinary team also considered the results of monitoring and 
evaluation activities, Forest Plan and project level appeal issues and 
decisions, lawsuit issues and decisions, new scientific information, 
changing public demands, and Forest Service direction concerning 
ecosystem management and the Natural Resource Agenda. This amendment 
will address the following broad topics, among others: Recreation; Off-
Road Vehicles; Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species; 
Transportation System; Roadless Areas; Timber Suitability and Allowable 
Sale Quantity; Wild and Scenic Rivers; Range (cattle grazing) and 
Vegetation Patterns.
    The Forest Service has prepared a brief discussion paper for each 
amendment topic. These papers (available at www.fs.fed.us/oonf/
mccurtain/papers2.htm) define topics in the context of related Forest 
Plan decisions to be made, the existing situation on the Broken bow 
unit, and current Forest Plan direction. The proposal described later 
in this Notice is an attempt to integrate the concerns and 
opportunities presented by each of the broad topics summarized below.
    Recreation: Public interest in enhancing recreation and tourism 
opportunities in southeastern Oklahoma was a strong factor in local and 
State support for the land exchange. Among the prominent features of 
the Broken Bow unit are 10 miles of the Mountain Fork River, more than 
14 miles of the Glover River, proximity to the 14,000-acre Broken Bow 
lake, steep forested ridges, large areas of pine plantations, and an 
extensive road network. Rugged topography, natural stands of oak and 
pine, and lack of road access on the northwest, north, and east sides 
of the lake contrast with less severe topography, extensive pine 
plantations, and many miles of low standard roads on the west. These 
lands and waters offer a great variety of recreational opportunities.
    Places of high visual sensitivity include those within the view of 
heavily traveled roads and trails, recreation areas, and other scenic 
vistas in the area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages Broken Bow 
Lake and much of its shoreline. The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation 
Department and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation manage 
other parts of the shoreline (some under lease arrangement with the 
Corps) and portions of the uplands around the lake, including McCurtain 
County Wilderness Area, which is nearly surrounded by National Forest 
land.
    The general area already receives considerable recreation use from 
local residents and many people who travel from Texas, elsewhere in 
Oklahoma, and other states. Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City 
are within a half-day's drive of these lands. People are attracted to 
the area for its natural settings on both public and timber industry 
lands and for the various recreation facilities currently available. 
Beaver's Bend-Hochatown State Park, located on the west shore of the 
lake, is one of the most popular parks in Oklahoma; a Corps recreation 
area (managed by the State of Oklahoma) on

[[Page 15720]]

the lower Mountain Fork River provides an additional draw. Facilities 
at these State and Federal recreation areas include 8 campgrounds with 
nearly 400 campsites, the 40-room Lakeview Lodge, a nature/education 
center, 47 cabins, picnic and swimming areas, a marina, numerous boat 
launching ramps, a system of hiking trails, and a golf course.
    Broken Bow Lake is a major attraction for fishing and boating 
enthusiasts. The lower part of the Mountain Fork is a stocked trout 
fishery, and the Glover River is considered the finest smallmouth bass 
fishery in Oklahoma. Both the Glover and Mountain Fork Rivers receive 
considerable use by anglers and floaters.
    Off-road Vehicles: ORV use is a popular activity on the acquired 
lands, which have a high density of low standard roads that provide 
access to thousands of acres of pine plantations. These roads have 
traditionally been open to ORV riding (when they were in private 
ownership). However, current Oklahoma State law prohibits ORV riding on 
public roads, including National Forest roads. Because of the rugged 
terrain north and east of the lake and low road density, ORV use there 
is probably restricted to the road system and lake access points. 
Little is known about the extent or nature of any resource damage due 
to ORV use in the area. Some members of the public support allowing 
continued ORV use in the area; others would like to see some 
restrictions, such as limiting cross-country travel to that necessary 
to transport game.
    Threatened, Endangered, Sensitive Species: Another selling point 
for the land exchange was that it would offer enhanced opportunities 
for conservation of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species on 
public lands, particularly in McCurtain County, Oklahoma. For starters, 
the sections of the Mountain Fork and Glover Rivers and their 
tributaries within the Broken Bow unit contain some of the richest 
aquatic faunas in Oklahoma, including populations of the threatened 
leopard darter (Percina pantherina), several species the Forest Service 
lists as ``sensitive'' or as candidates for listing as sensitive, and 
important sport fishes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 
designated portions of the two rivers as Critical Habitat for the 
leopard darter.
    The red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) occurs in the 
McCurtain County Wilderness Area, which is owned by the state of 
Oklahoma and managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife 
Conservation. This endangered species has been observed foraging on 
adjacent National Forest land but is not known to nest there. The 
Nature Conservancy found four sites showing evidence of occupation or 
offering prime habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers during a 1995 
ecological assessment of what are now national forest lands: Locust 
Mountain, Hee Mountain, Little White Oak Mountain, and Five Mile 
Hollow.
    The endangered peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) has been 
observed near Brokem Bow Lake as a transient during migration. There is 
a high probability that this species roosts on National Forest land 
near the lake. The threatened bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 
uses habitat along the Mountain Fork River in the vicinity of Broken 
Bow Lake in the winter, roosting on the National Forest. Based on 
recent summer observations, biologists suspect that bald eagles may 
also nest in the vicinity.
    Another federally listed species that may occur in the Broken Bow 
unit is the endangered American burying beetle (Nicrophorus 
americanus). Due to the similarity of habitat types present on these 
lands to occupied habitats elsewhere on the National Forest, there is 
potential for this species to occur in the Broken Bow unit. Several 
other sensitive species occur within the unit. See the topic paper 
concerning Terrestrial Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species 
for further information.
    Transportation System: The acquired lands include an extensive road 
network that was developed by Weyerhaeuser Company for intensive timber 
management. The roads and associated drainage structures vary 
considerably in width, design standards, and general condition. An 
inventory of the existing roads on the Broken Bow unit identified about 
566 miles on National Forest land (a road density of 3.26 miles per 
square mile).
    Roadless Areas: The Forest Service maintains inventories of land 
areas that have few or no permanent roads. During Forest Plan revision, 
the agency conducts a public review of options for all ``roadless 
areas,'' and one or more of these areas could eventually be recommended 
to Congress for wilderness designation. It is important to note that no 
wilderness determination will be made during the Forest Plan amendment 
process.
    Areas of National Forest land that appear to fit current Forest 
Service criteria for roadless character are the 7,356-acre Ashford Peak 
area on the east side of Broken Bow Lake and the 7,285-acre Bee 
Mountain area on the west side of the lake. Weyerhaeuser reserved oil 
and gas rights until the year 2041 on the Ashford Peak area and on a 
small portion of the Bee Mountain area; all minerals are outstanding on 
the bulk of Bee Mountain. Reserved or outstanding mineral rights do not 
necessarily disqualify an area from being ``roadless,'' especially if 
mineral rights are obtainable and/or there is no surface occupancy or 
development. Currently no development exists in either area. The State-
owned McCurtain County Wilderness Area lies in the northern part of the 
block of National Forest lands under consideration here.
    Vegetation Patterns: Based on analysis of satellite imagery from 
May 1998, the team estimated that there are about 61,600 acres where 
pines predominate the forest canopy and at lest 46,000 where hardwoods 
predominate. Roads and other nonforested conditions occupy about 4,000 
acres. More than half of the pine-dominated acreage consists of 
loblolly pine plantations less than 30 years old; the remainder 
consists of more natural forest cover in which shortleaf pines 
predominate. The pine plantations average 110 acres in size, but 
several exceed 200 acres. As more detailed, ground-based forest 
inventories are completed, these estimates will be refined. The team 
recognizes that many members of the public are concerned about 
conserving hardwood trees and conserving or restoring older forests and 
woodlands of all kinds.
    Timber Suitability and Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ): Timber 
management on the Ouachita National Forest is designed to perpetuate 
native forests, sustain habitat for viable populations of native plants 
and animals (including sensitive species), protect water quality and 
aesthetic values, yield valuable timber products, and support local 
economic activity. National Forest lands ``suitable'' for timber 
production (as one element of their management) are those that are 
physically and legally capable of supporting timber harvests and timber 
regeneration activities on a regulated and sustained basis. The ASQ is 
the volume of timber that may be sold annually from the ``suitable'' 
lands covered by the Forest Plan. Prior to the exchange, the suitable 
land base was approximately 994,000 acres, and the ASQ was 29.2 million 
cubic feet (144 million board feet).
    The Broken Bow unit includes a mix of cutover lands, loblolly pine 
plantations, and mixed pine-hardwood stands of varying densities and 
age classes, while the portions of the Tiak tract traded to 
Weyerhaeuser consisted mainly of well-stocked sawtimber stands on 
highly productive coastal

[[Page 15721]]

plain sites. These changes in the National Forest land base may result 
in a change of lands suitable for timber harvest and the corresponding 
ASQ.
    Wild and Scenic Rivers: River eligibility studies are carried out 
in accordance with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Final Revised 
Guidelines for Eligibility, Classification, and Management of River 
Areas (Federal Register 9/7/82) of the U.S. Department of the Interior 
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To be eligible for inclusion in 
the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, a river must be free 
flowing and have one or more outstanding remarkable scenic, 
recreational, geological, fish and wildlife, archeological/historical, 
or other features. The planning team has conducted eligibility studies 
for portions of the Glover and Mountain Fork Rivers.
    Range (cattle grazing): Cattle grazing is a traditional use of the 
acquired lands that developed over many years when the lands were in 
private ownership. This activity and land use is a source of income for 
some local cattle owners. Cattle grazing has long been recognized as 
one of the important multiple uses of National Forest land when managed 
in a way that ensures protection of ecological values.
    Curently 19 individuals have temporary permits to use portions of 
the acquired lands to graze about 1,000 head of cattle. (These 
permittees had grazing permits with Weyerhaeuser for these lands prior 
to the exchange.) Many of these are ``on/off'' permits, with the cattle 
grazing freely between private lands and National Forest lands. The 
majority of National Forest lands are included in the permit areas, but 
most of the grazing occurs on roadsides and in young plantations that 
have not reached crown closure. There are few fences on the property 
lines.
    While some of the following additional topics will be discussed in 
the draft EIS, no specific decisions concerning them will be made in 
this amendment:

1. Location of grazing allotments, identification of individual grazing 
permittees, or specific conditions for grazing (such as number of 
animals allowed, permitted use periods, range improvements).
2. Project-level decisions such as construction of recreation 
facilities (e.g., trails or campgrounds) and identification of 
individual timber sales or road closures.
3. Level of funding the county will receive in any given year from ``25 
percent returns.'' (The Forest Service annually returns 25 percent of 
all gross revenues to counties with National Forest lands; the EIS will 
discuss the possible effects of the Forest Plan decisions on 25 percent 
returns.)
4. Ecological restoration of native forests in loblolly pine 
plantations. (Restoration will be the subject of another Forest Plan 
amendment.)
5. Relationships with neighboring landowners (including road easements 
and property lines).
6. Community development. (The Forest Service supports community 
development activities and recognizes that Forest Plan decisions may 
influence development opportunities and quality of life in local 
communities. The draft EIS will examine possible economic and social 
impacts to local communities and at a broader regional level.)

Preliminary Proposal

    The Forest Service has prepared a preliminary proposal to address 
the six primary decisions and now seeks comments on this proposal. 
Comments received will be used to develop alternatives to the 
preliminary proposal.

(1) Modification of forest-wide goals, objectives, standards, and/or 
guidelines (if needed): The Forest Service does not believe that such 
modifications are warranted at this time. In other words, the 
preliminary proposal is to manage the acquired lands in the Broken Bow 
unit under the current forest-wide goals and objectives of the Forest 
Plan.
(2) Allocation of lands and waters to management areas: Allocate the 
approximately 111,580 acres of the Broken Bow unit as described below. 
(Unless noted otherwise, Management Area numbers refer to those in the 
current Forest Plan.). All acreage estimates are subject to change on 
the basis of future site-specific analysis and planning. Items (a) 
through (d) describe the Management Area allocations that can be 
readily displayed at the scale of a Forest map. Items (e) through (j) 
describe those Management Areas that cannot be displayed on a Forest 
map scale. A map displaying the four allocations (Management Areas 20, 
22, and 23 and ``General Forest'') is available for public review at 
100 Reserve Street, Federal Building, Second Floor, Hot Springs, 
Arkansas and on the Internet at: www.fs.fed.us/oonf/mccurtain/.
    (a) General Forest (typically a combination of Management Areas 9, 
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 18, but may also include others): approximately 
29,885 acres. Management Area 14 (Lands Suitable for Timber Production, 
Ouachita Mountains) usually is the most prominent in this mix of 
Management Areas. This area includes lands of moderate to low 
productivity (e.g., site indices are at least 50 for shortleaf pine and 
60 for hardwoods) that have not been assigned to more restrictive 
Management Areas. Much of the timber produced on the Ouachita National 
Forest comes from Management Area 14, but these lands also help meet 
vital wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and recreation needs.
    (b) Management Area 20--Wild and Scenic River Corridors: 
approximately 6,735 acres (all unsuitable for timber production). 
Management Area 20 consists of corridors of rivers eligible or 
potentially eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic 
Rivers System. Within the Broken Bow unit, segments of the Mountain 
Fork and Glover Rivers would be included in this Management Area.
    (c) Management Area 22-Shortleaf Pine-Bluestem Renewal and Red-
Cockaded Woodpecker Habitat Management Area: approximately 51,110 acres 
(including lands suitable and unsuitable for timber production). 
Management Area 22 includes National Forest lands that historically 
provided or currently provide nesting and/or foraging habitat for the 
red-cockaded woodpecker and that are dedicated to renewal of the 
shortleaf pine-bluestem grass ecosystem. Forest management activities 
include periodic thinning, prescribed fire, and regeneration by the 
two-aged shelterwood method. No actions would be taken that would 
diminish the roadless characteristics of inventoried roadless areas 
within this Management Area.
    (d) Management Area 23 (new to the Forest Plan)--Broken Bow Lake 
(area): approximately 23,850 acres (including lands suitable and 
unsuitable for timber production). Management Area 23 would include 
lands that can be seen from the main part of the lake and most other 
National Forest lands east of Highway 259 and south of the proposed 
boundary of Management Area 22. The emphasis would be on conserving and 
enhancing the area's unique combination of recreational,

[[Page 15722]]

aesthetic, wildlife habitat, and water quality values and benefits.

    The following Management Areas cannot be displayed at the fairly 
coarse scale of a Forest map. Some of the ones likely to be applied to 
the Broken Bow Unit by the Forest Plan amendment include:

    (e) Management Area 9--Water and Riparian Areas (ponds, lakes, 
streamside zones, and riparian areas; streamside zones have minimum 
widths of 100 feet to both sides of perennial streams and 30 feet both 
sides of all other streams), all considered unsuitable for timber 
production: approximately 12,600 acres plus approximately 11,550 acres 
of equivalent streamside management zones in Management Area 22 for a 
total of approximately 24,150 acres in streamside management zones.
    (f) Management Area 10--Nonforest (consists of roads, rights-of-
ways, and special uses located within other Management Areas): 
estimated acres will be supplied in the draft EIS.
    (g) Management Area 11--Not Appropriate for Timber Production 
(lands of low productivity, i.e., 20 to 49 cubic feet of tree growth 
per acre per year; site index for hardwood generally less than 60 and 
for pine, less than 50): estimated acres will be supplied in the draft 
EIS.
    (h) Management Area 12--Nonproductive (areas of rock outcrops or 
shallow soils on which tree growth is less than 20 cubic feet per 
year): estimated acres will be supplied in the draft EIS.
    (i) Management Area 13--Unsuitable Lands Based on Other Resource 
Coordination (lands unsuitable for timber production that are not 
included in other Management Areas): estimated acres will be supplied 
in the draft EIS.
    (j) Management Area 18--Visually Sensitive Foreground Areas, Roads 
and Trails (foreground area along sensitivity level 1 and 2 roads, 
e.g., major highways and major forest roads, and trails): estimated 
acres will be supplied in the draft EIS.
(3) Identification of lands suitable for timber production: Based upon 
an analysis of satellite imagery, slope and soils data, the preliminary 
assignment of lands and waters to four major Management Areas 
(described above), and estimates of streamside management zones, the 
interdisciplinary team estimates that approximately 54,000 acres of the 
Broken Bow unit may be suitable for timber production. Of these lands, 
at least 32,000 acres consist of loblolly pine plantations. The 
disposal of 28,093 acres of coastal plain lands (former portions of the 
Tiak Ranger District) and the addition of approximately 111,580 acres 
in the mountainous part of McCurtain County has resulted in an 
estimated net increase of about 25,750 acres of National Forest land 
suitable for timber production. Further analysis of timber suitability 
will be included in the draft EIS.
(4) Re-determination of forest-wide allowable sale quantity (ASQ) (if 
needed): The land base suitable for timber production for the Ouachita 
National Forest has increased as a result of the land exchange, but the 
average timber productivity of the acquired lands in Oklahoma is less 
than that of the former National Forest lands that are now in private 
ownership. The interdisciplinary team will conduct analyses to 
determine the net change, if any, in ASQ.
(5) Identification of lands suitable and potentially available for 
cattle grazing: Most of the acquired lands appear to be suitable for 
controlled grazing. The capability of these lands for producing forage 
for grazing animals will be analyzed and reported in the draft EIS.
(6) Determination of the eligibility and suitability of the Glover and 
Mountain Fork Rivers for possible congressional designation as Wild and 
Scenic Rivers: The interdisciplinary team has made a preliminary 
determination that the portion of the Glover River within National 
Forest boundaries should be recommended for inclusion in the National 
Wild and Scenic Rivers System; the team will not recommend the portions 
of the Mountain Fork River within National Forest boundaries for such 
inclusion at this time.
    Glover River: Segment I--19.5 stream miles, beginning at the 
confluence of East and West Forks, T3S, R23E, Sec. 7, and extending 
south to the Forest proclamation boundary, T5S, R23E, Sec. 9 (about 0.8 
mile downstream from the bridge on road 50000). This segment (and 
possibly lower portions of Cedar and Carter Creeks) is eligible because 
the stream is free flowing and has outstandingly remarkable scenic, 
recreational, fish and wildlife, geological and archaeological/historic 
values. It qualifies for classification as ``scenic'' because it is 
free of impoundments, has shorelines or watersheds still largely 
primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, and has several access 
points and road crossings. The Forest Service will complete a report to 
determine if this segment of the Glover River is suitable for inclusion 
in the NWSR System. Segment II--12.5 stream miles, beginning at the 
southern limit of the Forest proclamation boundary south to the 
confluence with Little River. Because this segment of the Glover River 
is in private ownership and outside the National Forest proclamation 
boundary, the Forest Service will not conduct an eligibility and 
suitability study. Such a study would be more appropriately conducted 
by a State agency.
    Mountain Fork River: Segment I--15.9 stream miles, including that 
part of the river from the Oklahoma-Arkansas State line, T1S, R27E, 
Sec. 3, downstream to the Forest proclamation boundary at the Oklahoma 
Highway 4 bridge, T1S, R25E, Sec. 24. This segment of the Mountain Fork 
is entirely in private ownership and outside the National Forest 
proclamation boundary. The Forest Service will not conduct an 
eligibility or suitability study of this stretch of river. Such a study 
would be more appropriately conducted by a State agency. Segment II--
9.1 miles, including that part of the river from the Forest 
proclamation boundary at the Oklahoma Highway 4 bridge downstream to 
the upper end of Broken Bow Lake (600-foot elevation level). This 
segment is eligible for designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers 
Act because it is free flowing and has outstandingly remarkable scenic, 
recreational, fish and wildlife, geological, and archaeological/
historical values. It qualifies as ``scenic'' because it is free of 
impoundments, has shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and 
shorelines largely undeveloped, and has several access points and road 
crossings. Because of limited National Forest ownership in this segment 
(2.3 miles), it would be more appropriate for a State agency to 
complete any further studies. Segment III--11.1 stream miles, beginning 
at the Broken Bow dam and extending downstream to the National Forest 
proclamation boundary at U.S. Highway 70, T6S,

[[Page 15723]]

R26E, Sec. 7. Although containing outstandingly remarkable scenic and 
recreational values, this segment of river is not considered free 
flowing and, therefore, is not eligible for inclusion in the NWSRS.

Possible Alternatives

    The alternatives briefly summarized below have been discussed by 
the interdisciplinary team; others will be developed in response to 
public issues.

(1) Increase extent of Management Area 22. Increase Management Area 22 
(renewal of the shortleaf pine-bluestem ecosystem) to encompass more 
acreage, including most of the land tentatively proposed for allocation 
to Management Areas 14 and 23.
(2) Establish a single Management Area 23 (Broken Bow Lake Management 
Area) east of Highway 259, divided into 23a (Habitat Management Area 
for Red-cockaded Woodpecker) and 23b [lower Lake area] instead of 22 
and 23). This alternative would be developed to show a more integrated 
picture of management direction within the Broken Bow Lake/Mountain 
Fork River area. Standards and guidelines would change little.
(3) Increase the extent of Management Area 14. Allocate more land to 
the Management Area that yields most of the wood products from the 
Ouachita National Forest.

Further Information Concerning Public Comments on the Draft EIS

    The Forest Service believes, at this early stage, that it is 
important to give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to 
public participation in the environmental review process. First, 
reviewers of draft environmental impact statements must structure their 
participation in the environmental review of the proposal so that it is 
meaningful and alerts an agency to the reviewer's position and 
contentions. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519, 
553 (1978). Also, environmental objections that could be raised at the 
draft environmental impact statement stage but that are not raised 
until after completion of the final environmental impact statement may 
be waived or dismissed by the courts. City of Angoon v. Hodel, 803 F.2d 
1016, 1022 (9th Cir. 1986) and Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. v. Harris, 490 
F. Supp. 1334, 1338 (E.D. Wis. 1980). Because of these court rulings, 
it is very important that those interested in this proposed action 
participate by the close of the comment period so that substantive 
comments and objections are made available to the Forest Service at a 
time when it can meaningfully consider them and respond to them in the 
final environmental impact statement.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft 
environmental impact statement should be as specific as possible. It is 
also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the 
draft statement. Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft 
environmental impact statement or the merits of the alternatives 
formulated and discussed in the statement. Reviewers may wish to refer 
to the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for implementing 
the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act at 
40 CFR part 1503.3 in addressing these points.
    Responsible Official: The Responsible Official is Elizabeth Estill, 
Regional Forester, Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service, located 
at 1720 Peachtree Road, NW, Atlanta, GA 30367.

    Dated: March 24, 1999.
George Wayne Kelley,
Deputy Regional Forester.
[FR Doc. 99-8010 Filed 3-31-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-M